Influenza: Individuals Should Prepare For The Coming Flu Season By Getting Vaccinated Especially With COVID-19 Around
: Though it is very vague and not conformative, the second annual influenza season in Thailand starts during the rainy months of June to August while the first season is during the cooler months of December to February. In the US, the flu season typically starts in October to February while in China it is between November to February. In UK it is also around October to February. In Australia and South Africa it starts between May to October. For Thailand and other equatorial countries, the second flu season gets complicated as it also the dengue season.
Virologists and healthcare professionals are concerned about the upcoming influenza season. This may result in more people needing medical care for flu including hospitalization while the health system is still battling the SARS-C0V -2 coronavirus. This may swing the pendulum in favor of SARS-CoV-2 by making it harder to control the pandemic.
Already there are many other respiratory viruses that circulate throughout the year. But the influenza virus can be deadly.
Most individuals who get influenza only have a mild illness: a fever, cough (usually dry), headache, muscle and joint pain, severe malaise (feeling unwell), sore throat and a runny nose. But influenza can also cause more severe illness. This includes lower respiratory tract diseases that cause difficulty breathing, such as bronchitis or pneumonia. These conditions may require hospitalization or even be fatal.
Unfortunately, these signs are very similar to those caused by COVID-19. It may create additional anxiety for patients and stress on the healthcare system this year. This is why it's advisable that everybody get the influenza vaccine. It will not protect people from COVID-19, but it will reduce influenza-related illness and in effect ease stress on health services during this pandemic.
Individuals older than 65 are most at risk and could die of either flu or COVID-19. Influenza also causes severe disease in young children. This is different to COVID-19, which has so far caused very few fatalities in children under nine. Pregnant women and people with HIV or other immune suppressive conditions are at high risk for severe disease and even death due to influenza. Individuals with underlying health conditions may also experience COVID-19 more severely.
Significantly it appears that COVID-19 has a higher fatality rate (1%-5%) than influenza (less than 0.5%).
However during winter, influenza can infect up to a third of the population. Every year seasonal influenza kills between 100,000 and 600,000 people worldwide.
The coming annual influenza season would be a big concern for all at a time when COVID-19 appears to be much worse than flu.
Individuals would want to avoid visits to doctors if possible during the pandemic. This will reduce the stress on the healthcare system and help patients to avoid exposure to COVID-19 infected patients, so as to avoid the risk of having influenza and COVID-19 co-infections.
To date, little information is available on the severity of COVID-19 and other viral co-infections. But a recent report suggests that influenza and COVID-19 co-infections may
result in more severe disease in high-risk patients and complicate the diagnoses.https://www.thailandmedical.news/news/covid-19-immunity-study-finds-immune-scars-on-patients-with-lung-infections-making-them-more-vulnerable,-warning-for-coming-flu-season
This only emphasizes the importance of getting the influenza vaccine. The pneumococcus vaccine can also reduce the number of bacterial secondary infections that can compound disease, especially in children and the elderly.
The WHO or World Health Organization recommends annual vaccination for high-risk population groups. These include pregnant women, children aged between six months and five years, people older than 65 years, those with chronic medical conditions such as HIV, heart or lung problems, and healthcare workers.
However all people of all ages will benefit from getting the flu vaccine. High-risk people should however be prioritized if the vaccine stocks run low.
However there are many misinformation, myths and questions about the flu vaccine that influence people's decisions about whether to get the vaccine. These must be addressed:
-Question 1: How do I know the influenza vaccine matches the strains circulating during our season?
Typically there are three influenza subtypes that circulate globally at the same time that are included in the flu vaccine. Every year the WHO's global network of National Influenza Centres collaborate to identify the most common strains that are circulating in the northern and southern hemispheres. These strains are then used to produce specific vaccines for each hemisphere that are ready in time for the following year's influenza season. Influenza strains may mutate or drift genetically from year to year. But most of the time the strains in the vaccine are a very close match to the current circulating strains and provide protection against most if not all the strains in the vaccine.
-Question 2: Can the influenza vaccine make you sick?
The answer is no. The influenza vaccine only contains dead flu virus so it cannot give you flu. The flu vaccine is produced in eggs and killed to make the vaccine. Some people who are allergic to eggs may have a reaction to the egg proteins and shouldn't get the vaccine, but this is rare.
-Question3: Is it true that there is mercury in the vaccine that could be toxic?
Note that in the past, a preservative called Thimerosal was used in vaccines that contained trace amounts of ethyl-mercury. Etyl-mercury is not the same as methyl-mercury, which is found in certain fish and can be toxic if consumed at high levels. Nevertheless, due to public concerns Thimerosal was removed from all vaccines in 1999.
-Question 4: How effective is the vaccine as I still got sick in the past after getting the flu vaccine?
There are other viruses such as rhinovirus or respiratory syncytial virus circulating at the same time as flu that can also cause an infection with the same symptoms. The vaccine is about 50%-70% effective in preventing the flu. But if you do still get sick or if you get a co-infection with another virus, the flu vaccine will still reduce the severity of disease.
However the flu vaccine will not protect you from getting COVID-19. But by being protected from influenza, people could avoid unnecessary doctors' visits and protect vulnerable groups from potentially more severe disease.
It is anticipated that the coming Influenza season is expected to be far worst especially with COVID-19 around and people have to start making preparations well far in advance from stocking up necessities and supplies including relevant medications etc and also taking more necessary safety precautions such as washing hands frequently, wearing a protective mask and practicing social distancing.
Most importantly try getting a flu vaccination in advance.
Thailand Medical News Will be Covering More Articles and Studies On Influenza
The Next Few Days.